Can a landlord back out of a verbal agreement if we already paid him money?

UPDATED: Feb 12, 2012

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Can a landlord back out of a verbal agreement if we already paid him money?

We were accepted as new tenants for a house rental. We gave the landlord $1,000 with another $1,000 due before we move in. He called us today and told us to come get our money because he wants to rent the place to a friend in a bind.We have already given our notice in our current home so we have no place to go in a couple of weeks. Do we have any rights here?

Asked on February 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you would seem to have enforceable rights, from what you write. It appears that there was a contract, even if at this stage, an oral (not written) one, to rent to you: there was an offer (e.g. that you could rent the house for a certain amount), which you accepted, and you provided consideration (something of value; i.e. the $1,000) to bind the agreement. When there is offer, acceptance, and consideration, there is an enforceable contract, even if there is nothing in writing.

Of course, to enforce this right against the landlord if he refuses to honor the agreement will require litigation--i.e. a lawsuit--which may or may not be worth it. If you could find alternative housing, it may be better to see if you could also get the landlord to do more than simply return your money--i.e. pay you something to get out of the lease--instead of suing.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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